Are women losing ability to give birth naturally? They're relying too much on C-sections and drugs, says expert
- Mothers have become too reliant on the drugs used in labour, said doctor
- Dr Michel Odent claimed that this puts women's ability to give birth at risk
- Fewer women are able to produce the hormone oxytocin, doctor added
- This threatens ability to breastfeed and to give birth naturally, he said
By SOPHIE BORLAND, HEALTH CORRESPONDENT FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 02:42 EST, 24 May 2015 | UPDATED: 04:36 EST, 25 May 2015
Women are losing their power to give birth naturally by relying on caesareans and other interventions, according to a renowned medical expert.
Dr Michel Odent also warned that the increasing tendency towards women having their labours induced could impair their ability to breastfeed.
He urged midwives to do more to encourage natural births and even suggested they should calm mothers-to-be by knitting in the corner of the room.
In a stark warning, he said that if current trends continue, the ‘future of the human capacity to give birth is at risk’.
More than a quarter of births in the UK now involve a caesarean, with rates having doubled since 1990. This has largely been blamed on doctors being more cautious and keener to intervene if the labour is slow as well as a reluctance among women to go through birth without medication.
Dr Odent also highlighted figures showing that women who gave birth between 2002 and 2008 took an average of two and a half hours longer during the first stage of labour compared to those between 1959 to 1966. The French obstetrician believes that women are becoming increasingly dependent on other interventions such as forceps, epidural pain-relieving injections and other drugs.
He also warned against women routinely being given the drug oxytocin to induce labour or speed the process up. This is a naturally occurring hormone and Dr Odent said that giving it to women via drips suppressed their ability to produce it themselves. The hormone is also known as the ‘cuddle chemical’ as it is thought to play a crucial role in enabling a mother to bond with the newborn and produce milk
Dr Odent warned that if women lost their ability to produce it naturally, they would find it harder to breastfeed. Last year, 25 per cent of births were induced using oxytocin, a 7 per cent rise compared to the previous year.
Dr Odent, 85, formerly head of the surgical and maternity units at Pithiviers hospital in Northern France, said: ‘To me it demonstrates the obvious — that women are losing the capacity to give birth.
'That is the primary phenomenon . . . the number of women who give birth to babies naturally is becoming insignificant.
‘I believe that the human oxytocin system — oxytocin being the hormone of love, fundamental to birth and bonding, even in adulthood — is growing weaker.’
He urged midwives to become the ‘protectors of the evolutionary process’ and to protect women from those doctors who are keen to intervene. And he suggested they sit quietly in the corner of a darkened labour room knitting, which would calm the mother to be and enable her to produce the natural hormones needed for birth.
His remarks are made in his book Do We Need Midwives, and also in a contribution to another book, Mama: Love, Motherhood and Revolution, by Antonella Gambotto-Burke.
It is not the first time he has spoken out against convention and in 2008 he said men should never be allowed to be present during labour. He said they prevented women ‘relaxing into labour’.
Soo Downe, professor in midwifery studies at the University of Central Lancashire, said: ‘Odent has in the past said things that seem preposterous but a few years later are borne out by the evidence.
Giving women synthetic oxytocin interferes with the balance of hormones. Evidence is growing that there are long-term consequences.